A review of books related to the Middle Ages

CRUEL AS THE GRAVE - Sharon Kay Penman (Henry Holt and Company)

IN the sequel to her previous work, The Queen’s Man, we revisit the story of the re- sourceful Justin de Quincy, a young man in service to Eleanor of Aquitaine. This installment deals with the murder of a young, free-spirited Welsh girl done at night in a deserted church graveyard. Justin and his friend, Luke de Marston, the under sherriff of Hamshire, search for clues to clear a pair of brothers accused of the murder and attempted rape; a crime that the local authorities want to sweep under the rug. Unfortunately, both brothers have motives for seeing the lass dead.

Also interspersed in the story is the continuing internecine strife involving the imprisoned King Richard Plantagenet and his brother Prince John, who is scheming for the throne. The book explores the complicated relationship between Eleanor and John, who never seemed to measure up to the image of his golden brother. This book will be one you won’t want to put down, and you’ll find yourself caring about the characters (even, in some cases, the bad ones!).